Recycling the plywood from boarded-up businesses

Plywood covering the former Fuji Ya
Plywood covering the former Fuji Ya. Photo by Andrew Hazzard

A local nonprofit dedicated to reducing waste is working to ensure a second life for the thousands of plywood boards nailed onto storefronts during the unrest following George Floyd’s killing.

ReUSE Minnesota is collecting the plywood boards and offering them free to local nonprofits.

As of June 25, it had collected about 500 pieces of plywood and redistributed about 100, board president Jenny Kedward said.

“We wanted to make sure that as the plywood was coming down, it wasn’t just getting incinerated or landfilled,” she said.

Founded in 2012, ReUSE Minnesota promotes recycling-related businesses and legislation and participates in events such as the State Fair Eco Experience.

Kedward said the organization is partnering with the University of Minnesota to process and store some of the plywood. So far, plywood has gone out to organizations like Pillsbury United Communities, which used it as flooring at a food-distribution center.

Reused plywood was also used to help build a stage for a George Floyd memorial concert and repurposed into crates to send personal protective equipment to Bolivia.

ReUSE Minnesota is still deciding whether it wants to charge individuals who ask for plywood for personal projects, she said.

If the plywood is not reused, much of it would likely go to waste-to-energy incinerators or landfills. Kedward said landfilling wood doesn’t have the environmental consequences of throwing away other objects but that making the plywood is an energy-consuming process.

“It’s useful wood, [and] we should use it,” she said.

Visit tinyurl.com/plywoodmn to learn more about the project.